May is my birthday month, and thanks to my intensive blogging stint during the first MCO, I've been able to look back to this time a year ago, to see what I was up to.
In May 2020 we were more than 50 days into movement control, slowly opening up into a recovery mode, and I recorded going to the mall for the first time in two months, the surreality of having to register yourself at the door of every shop, and the amount of over-stimulation I felt by just leaving the house for a few hours. I had settled into some sort of introvert ennui - in general I like spending time on my own, but even that had slowly become vaguely tedious and unsatisfying. To entertain my inner child, I filled up my time with various activities such as birdwatching, experimenting with my solar cooker, and a ten-day stretch of book bingeing. Still having my chin up, I plunged myself headfirst into the free Coursera courses that the government was offering.
Now a year ahead, in May 2021, Klang Valley locked down again shortly after my birthday (a few days ago), for the third time. I am tired. Case rates are at 4,500 new cases a day, number of deaths are also increasing. ICU beds are getting to full occupancy, and more younger people are getting admitted. Standard operating procedures are still muddy - you'd think they'd have gotten it clear by now - and as is quite normal in this country there was a fair bit of flip flopping in policy decisions, setting everyone scrambling to understand what to do and how to do it. KL was not under lockdown but its surrounding Selangor districts were, and this was quickly reversed. A few days later, MCO was expanded nationwide. Sports (and therefore yoga, the only sport I care about now) was allowed, then banned, then allowed under certain circumstances...
This time around, we've got our vaccination appointments. Due to a high vaccine hesitancy around AstraZeneca, the government opened up a parallel track allowing anyone (not only frontliners, or the elderly and sick) to register for the 268,000 doses of AZ that we had acquired, and that apparently people didn't want. There is a slim 1 in 100,000 chance that dangerous blood-clotting may happen to AZ recipients, but seen in the perspective of getting Covid and blood-clotting also happening to Covid patients, and how it's more likely to get struck by lightning in your lifetime than to get the AZ-related blood clotting... we went ahead and quickly booked the slots, which ran out within 3 hours.
Many things sadden me these days. Vaccine hoarding for instance. The Covid variants that are allowed to mutate and endanger everyone because rich countries are buying up most of the vaccines, even when their citizens themselves refuse the jabs. The discussion on patent waivers. India's out of control situation. Friends not getting themselves vaccinated because of fear and misinformation, or insisting on one brand or another (Pfizer only. Nothing but Sinovac. Argghhh!! I scream internally).
I've noticed that while life doesn't change all that much during MCO nowadays, because of how loose the lockdowns are, being subjected to it does put me into a box of grey and red. Having toned down on the doom scrolling over the past months, I'm checking news sites regularly again for SOP changes and daily numbers, and I can feel my anxiety levels going up just by skimming through headlines. The suffering on the news and the constant feeling of "this doesn't make sense" force me to numb my senses and look away - the grey - and the feeling of impending doom gives streaks of red.
Anyway, enough of Covid talk. I'll provide instead some updates in life since a year ahead I may I find it useful again to look back, in figuring out where I was at this point in time.
The garden is looking good, I'm getting splotches of colour here and there as my flowers slowly go into bloom. The climbing beans that I'm planting are starting to produce, and I'm trying to figure out how to harvest the ones that are too high up, out of my reach. I have fish again (after the last lot died) and hopefully I've accumulated enough of experience to not kill them again. I now have two pots of fish, and I'm experimenting on planting watercress above one of them as well, in time their roots will reach the water and hopefully make use of fish waste.
The quest to produce tasty tomatoes is still on, given that last year's yield was so low that each tomato harvested was probably worth hundreds. Over the past year I've hopefully improved on my gardening skills though, having accumulated experience, read two books on soil science and microbes, and now that we have the bokashi system. I've observed pollinators like butterflies and bees hanging out on my balconies in the fourth floor, and I've been able to nurse some sick tomato plants back to health. One of my goals is to create a jungle-like atmosphere in the bedroom balcony, with the help of climbing plants, but everything takes time so I will only be able to see if it works in the months to come.
In other news, I managed to acquire an old Casio keyboard, on a long term loan from a friend who long-term loaned it from his friend, both wanting to free up space. It is great. I keep it beside my work desk, and whenever I feel like I just turn to my left and power it up and jam with myself. The next step is to buy a MIDI cable and hook it up to the computer, and that opens up a huge variety of possibilities. The keyboard itself is not touch sensitive so it doesn't register the pressure of the fingers, but I'm just psyched that I have an instrument now that I know enough to muck about with, instead of the on-and-off guitar playing and practice that I sporadically do, at a perpetual beginner's level.
Farsi learning is still on-going. I try to keep it consistent with at least two hours of work per week, including the one-hour class with Nasrin, and try not to feel too bad when I feel like I'm not retaining anything. Occasionally I surprise myself in understanding more than I think I do, which is nice. I think it's been about ten months now since I found Nasrin, and seen in perspective (since I had tried to learn Farsi on my own for some time before meeting her) I have made good progress. I read the script now, and I'm building a good foundation of grammar with Nasrin's help and Youtube.
Where I'm going with this, I have no idea. But that applies to life, and I'm still living, so with the same logic I'm just going to continue and enjoy the process.
I'm kind of starting a visual journal again. Hahaha. The thing is that I keep thinking that I'd do it, enthusiastically drawing a couple of pages to start, and after that it falls off and I go for weeks without drawing again. Even though, this time I've been thinking a lot about the philosophy of art and that thought process is actually helpful in allowing myself to experiment and to express, without all the noise that usually impedes the doing of it.
Keeping the art thoughts for another blog post, but here are the first two pages for the visual journal:
I guess things are good, even if they are bad. I'm getting a fair bit of creative anxiety, which does push me to do things amidst being locked down and slightly depressed. These days I've been catching up with friends on long calls, which is nice. Over the year I've learnt more about taking it easy, which is much harder than it sounds, but really essential for broadening up my perspective and allowing more things to enter my vision.
Here's to a good month of lockdown. Or three. We soldier on.